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Satellite-Observed Nighttime Light Variation as Evidence for Global Armed Conflicts

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3 Author(s)
Xi Li ; State Key Lab. of Inf. Eng. in Surveying, Wuhan Univ., Wuhan, China ; Fengrui Chen ; Xiaoling Chen

The objective of this research is to investigate the potential of nighttime light images, acquired with Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Operational Linescan System (DMSP-OLS), in evaluating global armed conflicts. To achieve this purpose, we assessed the relationship between armed conflicts and the satellite-observed nighttime light variation over 159 countries through annual composites of the nighttime light images. Firstly, a light ratio index was developed to reduce the data inconsistency of annual nighttime light images during 1992-2010. Then 12 countries were selected as examples for a primary investigation, and we found the outbreak of a war can reduce the light and the ceasefire can increase the light from the remote sensing images, which indicates armed conflict events always have significant impact on the nighttime light. Based on this assertion, a nighttime light variation index (NLVI) was developed to quantify the variation of the time series nighttime light. Then using conditional probability analysis, the probability of a country suffering from armed conflicts increases with increase of NLVI. Particularly, when the NLVI value is in a very high level as defined, 80% of the countries have experienced armed conflicts. Furthermore, using correlation analysis, the number of global armed conflicts is highly correlated with the global NLVI in temporal dimension, with a correlation coefficient larger than 0.77. In summary, the potential of nighttime light images in armed conflict evaluation is extended from a regional scale to a global scale by this study.

Published in:

Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, IEEE Journal of  (Volume:6 ,  Issue: 5 )